There have been several packages over the years claiming to include the "complete" Scott Joplin; most of these collections have been compromised in some way in terms of their "completeness." Scott Joplin: The Complete Rags, Marches, Waltzes and Songs on Basta featuring pianist Guido Nielsen is as close to the ideal as anyone has come. Likewise, all of Joplin's songs are included, though without a singer -- they are played as piano solos with the melodic line clearly spelled out. It is hard to blame Basta for taking such an approach, as the lyrics to many of Joplin's songs are so politically incorrect by current-day standards that they might well overshadow the fine musical qualities of these works. Also included is 35-second fragment of music found in a photograph made of Joplin's piano around 1940.
"Completeness" aside, the four-disc package wouldn't be of any value if the performances were less than top-drawer, and in this respect Scott Joplin: The Complete Rags, Marches, Waltzes and Songs really delivers. These are absolutely splendid readings, with sane choices of tempo, not too much rubato, and a nice compromise struck between the popular idiom of ragtime and a more "classical" feel, which Joplin did intend for certain rags. In particular, the late rags on the third disc have never sounded as well as Guido Nielsen plays them here. The set comes with two generous, well-illustrated booklets that contain up-to-date notes by Ed Berlin and Galen Wilkes. Scott Joplin: The Complete Rags, Marches, Waltzes and Songs easily exceeds anything else in its class and will be universally embraced by anyone who is already inclined toward the music of Scott Joplin.